The Detroit Lions had yet another disappointing season last year, going 5-11 and missing the playoffs for the 4th straight season.
The Lions traded Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff and draft capital, and receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones both went their separate ways in free agency. Dan Campbell was hired as the new head coach, and Brad Holmes filled in at GM for Bob Quinn. What does this mean for Detroit? They are left to start from scratch once again, and it begins with the draft this Thursday.
Detroit has arguably the worst defense in the NFL, and the offense is probably going to have a steep drop-off as well with the key pieces that they lost. However, let’s look at the pieces they have. On offense, they have Jared Goff as their quarterback (probably temporary unless he shows a drastic improvement), D’Andre Swift as a young and promising running back, T.J. Hockenson as the hopeful tight end of the future, and an offense line with Frank Ragnow and Taylor Decker leading the way. On defense, they have defensive end Romeo Okwara, veteran Jamie Collins at outside linebacker, and last year’s 3rd overall pick in Jeff Okudah at corner. That’s about it for the bright spots on this Lions squad besides a decent defensive line.
The Lions have a lot of holes on this roster, and the somewhat obvious thing to point to is wide receiver. With the 7th pick, the Lions will likely get to choose 1 of the top 4 receivers in Kyle Pitts (a TE but has and can definitely line up a receiver), Ja’Marr Chase, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle. However, Kyle Pitts is probably the safest option out of these, and has also arguably the highest ceiling out of all of these guys. Since the Lions don’t have much going for them right now, Pitts will likely be taken, and a star receiver doesn’t do much for winning games when you don’t have at least top 15 QB, Detroit should look to build a foundation.
Where does that foundation begin? The offensive line and the defense. While looking, I couldn’t really find many defensive players worth trading down for, as Micah Parsons might present some issues off the field and other guys simply are risky in terms of their style of play. So, the smartest pick for the Lions, assuming Justin Fields is off the board, is to take an offensive lineman. Star offensive lineman tend to have more longevity in the league than receivers and running backs, so it would make a lot of sense for Detroit to take one and give themselves more time to build a contending team.
The three main options here at left tackle are Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, and Christian Darrisaw. Any one of these guys can be inserted at left tackle immediately, and Detroit can afford to sacrifice some temporary Taylor Decker production in-game to get him accustomed to the right tackle position. Assuming Sewell is already taken, (as he is the clear number one offensive lineman option in this draft), trading down for Slater or Darrisaw is the smartest option. Whatever spot they decide to trade down to isn’t really important, as long as Detroit is confident that one of these guys will be on the board at the spot they draft at.
After taking an offensive lineman in the first round, Detroit NEEDS to focus on the defense. They lost Justin Coleman and Duron Harmon, and with a new coaching staff, this defensive unit is destined to struggle this season. While they can probably afford a receiver pick in the later rounds if they find an absolute steal, they need help on almost every facet of the defending side of the line of scrimmage. Defensive line can probably wait, as Romeo Okwara, Trey Flowers, Da’Shawn Hand, Michael Brockers, and John Pensini can probably hold it down as a mid-tier D-line for now. The secondary and linebacker crew, however, need to be addressed.
With Duron Harmon gone, a safety pick in the second round, such as Trevon Moehrig, would be smart. If he’s taken, guys like Jamin Davis at linebacker, or Asante Samuel Jr. or Eric Stokes to add on to Jeff Okudah at the cornerback spot would be very helpful for Detroit’s future. After this, the Lions just need to take as many defensive players as they can and hope they pan out. If some don’t, so be it, but the more defensive assets they draft, the more chances at getting a solid player, or even a future star out of this draft class.
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